Analysis: US pushes for extension of Gaza pause, but the possibility of war raging again looms large | CNN Politics

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Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza has allowed a weak pause. So far, 58 hostages have been released.The two sides have no direct contact and each is armed to destroy the other, so it is surprisingly durable.

The question is, how long will the cuts in demand lead to the deal, which will allow the return of scores of Israeli abductees in the wake of Hamas terror attacks, and the entry of more trucks into Gaza? Much needed help.

As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, developments in the Middle East have prompted emotional reunions between hostages and their families. But the plight of many of those still in prison and of Palestinian civilians underscores the horrors of the war. And as President Joe Biden returns to Washington in Nantucket, Massachusetts, after the holiday weekend, medium- and long-term conditions suggest that the war could soon start again — and become more intractable and costly.

Still, after four days of negotiations, hopes are rising that the deal will not be axed as planned on Monday. Hamas is pushing for an additional day’s pause in Israeli attacks to free each of the 10 hostages in the main event. The Israeli cabinet discussed the proposal. And the U.S. and Qatar — the two key brokers in the deal — want to use the stalled momentum to lay the groundwork for a more sustainable fight that would allow more hostages to be released and civilians in Gaza to be protected.

In the short term, both Israel and Hamas seem to have strong reasons to continue the march. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been under intense pressure from the families of the detainees, may find some political relief as more hostages return home. Hamas, for its part, is taking advantage of the halt in Israeli airstrikes and ground attacks to regroup and prepare for an expected large-scale assault on its southern strongholds. The United States wants to return Americans who have been captured or unaccounted for since the October 7 invasion by Hamas, and Biden has a strong sense of urgency in delaying or preventing further civilian massacres in Gaza — both for humanitarian reasons and for provoking youth and domestic political opposition among progressive voters who have denounced his unwavering support for Israel.

And there is pain away from Gaza and Israel, again on Saturday when three Palestinian colleges were lined up Students were shot. Police in Burlington, Vermont, have yet to determine a motive, but civil rights groups are calling for authorities to investigate the shooter’s bias. The attacks made American Jews feel less safe, as did rising anti-Semitism.

An extended lull in the war plays to humanitarian purposes, but it may be a while before Israel’s or Hamas’ strategic goals change. This means the fate of the remaining hostages – including several young men and some members of the Israeli security forces – is still uncertain.

For example, the current situation means that Hamas has regained its ability to orchestrate the timing of the conflict, using hostages as leverage to shape Israel’s response and military operations. The pause is complicating Israel’s efforts to wipe out the Islamist movement. And the fate of the remaining hostages, aligned with the broader goals of the Israeli military, poses a serious moral dilemma for the Netanyahu government.

The lopsided nature of the exchange – three Palestinians freed from Israeli prisons for every hostage taken – may be approaching a potentially unsustainable period politically for Netanyahu, whose power is held by a coalition of violent far-right parties. As the number of hostages slowly dwindles, Hamas may eventually lose its incentive to free more groups.

One uncertainty from the U.S. perspective is how much pressure Biden, who spoke again with Netanyahu on Sunday, will put on the Israelis to hold off as long as possible. But, once the hiatus ends, will US support for Israel’s right to target Hamas be as strong as it was before the deal? The delicate U.S.-Israel dynamic explains why it makes sense for Hamas to hold out on some American hostages to force Biden to limit Israel. “If the Americans continue to take hostages, that will make the United States focus on that and put pressure on the Israelis,” retired US Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told CNN on Sunday. A return to war could undermine Israel’s already shaky international support.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, described the balancing act the president faces in such situations without specifying exactly how he would respond. “President Biden believes that any country, including Israel, has the right and responsibility to defend itself against such an enemy,” Sullivan said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He also believes that any military operation must be conducted in a way that protects civilians, separates terrorists from civilians and ensures that those civilians have safe haven and access to life-saving humanitarian assistance.”

While the strategic choices ahead are dire, the release of hostages so far — and the arrival of more than 100 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza — represent a rare glimmer of hope and relief in a horrific conflict. Among those released Sunday was 4-year-old Abigail Edan, the youngest American and the first American citizen since the armistice. Biden spoke with the family of the girl whose parents were killed on October 7 and told Americans that she was in “horrible condition” although she was fine. Biden’s address was a welcome respite in a time of crisis that has caused significant political damage. But as he seeks re-election, the president, surrounded by low approval ratings and all kinds of political attacks, faces a dangerous road ahead – especially if the fighting in Gaza continues.

Biden has faced intense criticism from within the Democratic Party for not calling for a permanent ceasefire in the war. The division was revealed In the electoral coalition. Young, progressive voters — key to Biden’s turnout next year — They have become critics Israel’s response to the terror attacks has fueled growing anger among Arab Americans in Michigan, a key state for Democrats’ hopes.

But the president is drawing criticism from the right. GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie said the president deserves some credit for making the deal, but told CNN’s Dana Bash that he was concerned Biden was leaning heavily on Netanyahu in the “State of the Union.”

Christie warned that Biden is “starting to err” on the wrong side of hoping the rapprochement will continue. “In my view, he can’t do things like that publicly,” the former New Jersey governor said. The vote should only be in support of Israel’s efforts to protect its territory and the safety and security of its 9 million citizens.

Biden has been asking Congress for weeks to get $14.3 billion in emergency aid for Israel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a letter to his Democratic colleagues on Sunday that he would bring the national security package to the floor. It connects the funding of Israel and Ukraine Just next week. But such a move still faces serious challenges in the GOP-controlled House.

House Republicans passed own measure But, politically, they are tied to cuts to the Internal Revenue Service that Democrats who lead the Senate know are unpopular. Donald Trump’s Republicans, for their part, are resisting efforts by some Democrats and Senate Republicans to bend the scales on a new $60 billion aid package for Ukraine. And any package is at stake in the narrow House GOP majority, which is firmly controlled by hardliners. That means the only way Republicans can vote for a measure is if it includes a Democratic compromise on the southern border.

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he doesn’t expect the measure to pass this year. “I think it will be very difficult to do this at the end of the year. And the obstacle is the current White House policy on the southern border,” the Ohio Republican said.

In another sign that differences in the package could lead to further delays, Senator Chris Murphy said. It will be open To make Israeli aid conditional on the protection of Palestinian civilians. The Connecticut Democrat wrote on the “State of the Union” that “we routinely keep our aid to allies in compliance with American law and international law.” “And I think it’s very consistent with the way we give aid to allies, especially in times of war.”

The current political strategy in Israel, the United States, and beyond does not begin to think about what the post-war environment might look like. The Biden administration is reiterating its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which seems more remote than ever since the October 7 attacks. And Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday that he supports the idea of ​​an “international coalition” to take control of Gaza after Hamas is destroyed in the war.

But all that is far away. The main question for now is how long the fighting will stop and whether the hostages will be sent to freedom and safety.

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